Defending Premiers Ryde-Eastwood Hawks have booked their place in the Sydney Shield Grand Final after a tough 24-12 victory over Helensburgh Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
The Hawks will now look to defend their premiership from last year and are in a great place to do so after a brutal match against a Tigers outfit that refused to go away.
“That was tough and a massive grind so full credit to Helensburgh because they put in a big effort,” Ryde-Eastwood Hawks halfback Mitchell Gray, who scored a 50 metre try, said after the game.
“It was definitely an 80-minute performance. We never kicked away, they fought back and the second half was 6-all so it was really tough.”
Helensburgh started the game with plenty of intent after forcing an error from the kick-off. They had a few sets on attack and prop Lachlan Peachey made some massive runs but they were unable to crack the Hawks’ defence.
After absorbing early pressure, the Hawks turned the table courtesy of a very skilful Regan Hughes around-the-corner pass to put winger Bradley Cousins over the line.
Five minutes later they were in again when they had an attacking scrum, shifted the ball left and Reginald Alofipo showed great footwork to break the line and run away to score.
The Helensburgh crowd were full of life and energy and their players responded to the support with the try of the game to get back in the contest.
After a great run from fullback Zeik Foster they were back on the attack, and a great passage of play where the ball went through seven pairs of hands led to Harrison Geraghty scoring next to the posts.
The joy was short-lived a few moments later when a kick took a cruel bounce for Foster who was unable to get a grasp on it and Hawks backrower Tyler Seymour was there to scoop it up and extend their lead to 18-6 at half-time.
A dangerous tackle on Hawks’ fullback Curtis Wilson allowed them to march up-field before halfback Mitchell Gray sliced through the Tigers’ defence on halfway to run 50 metres and score.
The Tigers got back into the game when interchange hooker James Russell wrestled his way over from dummy half to reduce the deficit to 12 points with just over 10 minutes remaining.
A missed penalty goal resulted in a 20-metre dropout that was superbly regathered by Tigers winger Azan Turoa which set up a great finish, but the Hawks held on to book their place in the Sydney Shield Grand Final as they look to go back-to-back.
They play the winner of the Cronulla-Caringbah Sharks and the Belrose Eagles to be played at 6.30pm tonight.
The Grand Final will be played at 11am next Saturday at Bankwest Stadium.